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The Sound

War never changes

7/15/2015

When talking about bands making it big outside of Iowa, people tend to pose the question like there is a large amount of luck involved. “Who will be next?” — as though it is a lottery. That, of course, completely overlooks the fact that there is a ton of hard work involved. Bands that make it big do not just wake up one morning to the perfect situation — they make it happen. Success is often a matter of who is most willing to shove square pegs into round holes. Marshalltown’s Modern Life is War knows what’s up.

Modern Life is War plays Vaudeville Mews on Saturday, June 18 at 6 p.m. Admission is $12.

Modern Life is War plays Vaudeville Mews on Saturday,
June 18 at 6 p.m. Admission is $12.

“I’ve never looked at it like ‘making it’ was a thing,” said frontman Jeff Eaton. “My thing was always, if you want to write songs and put out a record, and there’s nobody to put it out, you do it yourself. If you want to go on tour and there’s no booking agent, you book a tour yourself. If no bands want to tour with you, you go alone. If you don’t have money for a hotel room, you sleep in the van.

“Obviously, we’re not against opportunity. But we’ve always just kind of figured that if things aren’t working, just force it. That was really the story of the success of our band, just pushing.”

Modern Life is War started pushing back in 2002 with the release of its self-titled EP. Since then, there have been four full-length albums, a couple of lineup changes, and a four-year hiatus. Since reforming in 2012, the lineup of Eaton, guitarists John Paul Eich and Matt Hoffman, bassist Chris Honeck and drummer Tyler Oleson have gotten back to the business of music, but have found ways to work smarter as well as harder.

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“The way we do things is different now,” Eaton explained. “For example, we just wrapped up a west coast tour. Prior to 2008, we would have played Omaha, then Denver, then Salt Lake City on our way out to California. But the way we’re doing things now is primarily flying into different regions, playing a few shows and flying home. We’re more selective about the shows we’ll play.”

It is a process that is paying off for the band. Modern Life is War has been steadily growing its fan base since its return to action and has done it almost entirely off the strength of regional tours and festival appearances. The band has only released one album since its return, but that is set to change soon.

“Our big thing for the next year is that we want to get something out,” Eaton confirmed. “Next year, you’ll see something from us for sure.”

Until then, Modern Life is War plans on staying the course — live shows whenever they can, regional tours to new territory, and, of course, doing what it takes to keep the home fires burning.

“Since we’ve been back, we’ve played our hometown in a little dive bar,” Eaton said. “We’ve played Wooly’s once, and now we’re playing Vaudeville Mews. We want to make it an event when we come here and give people a reason to come out.”

In terms of quantifiable things like Facebook likes and festival appearances, the band is one of the most popular Iowa acts around. But the group’s work ethic keeps them humble.

“At no point do you get to act like a rock star dick,” Eaton said of the band’s ethos. “No matter how successful things get, you have this attitude you have to maintain: There’s a lot of work to be done.” CV

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